Largest collection of ice age fossils found beneath Los Angeles store


Find by researchers includes almost intact Colombian mammoth and a complete sabre-tooth cat skeleton


Researchers have discovered the largest collection of ice age fossils beneath a demolished department store in central Los Angeles.


The find includes an almost intact Colombian mammoth, nicknamed Zed by researchers, a complete sabre-tooth cat skeleton, a giant ground sloth and a North American lion.


The discovery, close to the La Brea Tar Pits where the remains of 34 mammoths were uncovered almost a century ago, has excited palaeontologists because it gives them an unparalleled glimpse of life in the Los Angeles basin more than 10,000 years ago.


Unlike earlier excavations, workers were able to preserve intact smaller fossils, including turtles, clams, snails, fish and tree trunks. In previous discoveries, these items were discarded as the larger fossils were uncovered.


"This gives us the opportunity to get a detailed picture of what life was like 10,000 to 40,000 years ago" John Harris, chief curator at the Page Museum told the Los Angeles Times.


The smaller items have been saved because workers are using a different technique to remove the fossils. Prompted by the rush to clear the site, which is earmarked for an underground car park for the neighbouring LA County Museum of Art, researchers have removed entire chunks of soil. The remains have been stored in 23 wooden crates parked at the rear of the Page museum as palaeontologists prepare to sift through the remains.


Work has already started on Zed, the mammoth, who was 10 feet tall and 47-49 years old when he died. The skeleton is 80% complete and includes 10-feet long intact tusks. Zed is missing just one rear leg and the top of his skull, which was broken off during the excavation.



2000-yr-old Shiva shrine found

23 Feb 2009, 0327 hrs IST, Shailvee Sharda, TNN


LUCKNOW: Believed to be among the oldest brick shrines in India, Lucknow University’s department of ancient Indian history and archaeology has unearthed a 2,000-year-old Shiva temple as part of its excavation project recently in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district.


‘‘It’s actually a complex comprising five temples,’’ Prof D P Tewari of the Lucknow University said. ‘‘While four temples belong to the Kushana period (1st-3rd century AD or 2,000 years ago), it appears that the primary temple was constructed during the Sunga period (2nd century BC to 1st century AD or 2,200 years ago).’’


The temple site is a mound in Sanchankot in Unnao. The excavations have been going on since 2004, when UGC cleared the project for funding. ‘‘A lot of things have come to fore since we began, but the temple complex has suddenly given impetus to our research,’’ said Prof Tewari.


Spread across an area of 600 acres, the temple is made of baked bricks. In India, most of the brick temples were built in the Gupta period which existed in the fourth century AD. The temple’s architecture is ‘apsidal’ (semi-circular or u-shaped) in nature.


The LU has many artifacts to conclude that Lord Shiva was worshipped in this temple. Prof Tewari said, ‘‘A terracotta seal bearing the legend of ‘Kaalanjar peeth’ in Brahmi script was found from the site in Dec 2008.’’


A shivling, trishul, nandi bull, and a river are inscribed over the seal. The legend of ‘Kaalanjar peeth’ is inscribed just below the river.



Easter Island’s Controversial Collapse: More to the Story than Deforestation?

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2009)


Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has gained recognition in recent years due in part to a book that used it as a model for societal collapse from bad environmental practices—ringing alarm bells for those concerned about the health of the planet today. But that’s not the whole story, says Dr. Chris Stevenson, an archaeologist who has studied the island—famous for its massive stone statues—with a Rapa Nui scientist, Sonia Haoa, and Earthwatch volunteers for nearly 20 years.


The ancient Rapanui people did abuse their environment, but they were also developing sustainable practices—innovating, experimenting, trying to adapt to a risky environment—and they would still be here in traditional form if it weren’t for the diseases introduced by European settlers in the 1800s.


“Societies don’t just go into a tailspin and self-destruct,” says Stevenson, an archaeologist at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “They can and do adapt, and they emerge in new ways. The key is to put more back into the system than is taken out.”


While evidence suggests the Rapa Nui people cut down 6,000,000 trees in 300 years, for example, they were also developing new technological and agricultural practices along the way—such as fertilization techniques to restore the health of the soil and rock gardens to protect the plants. As a result, every rock on Easter Island has probably been moved three or four times, Stevenson said.


“The story that Chris’s research team is piecing together on Easter Island with the help of Earthwatch volunteers—rock by rock, sample by sample—is one that offers us hope in the human spirit of innovation, and the power of people to change. What a timely lesson,” said Ed Wilson, President and CEO of Earthwatch.


Other archaeological evidence indicates that the Rapanui people radically changed their societal structure from one dominated by chiefs to one that was much more egalitarian in nature, too, which effectively leveled out their consumption patterns.


“That was the big adjustment that gets the population back to being more or less sustainable,” Stevenson says. “It was like telling today’s corporate head that the company can’t afford the million-dollar remodel of his office,” Stevenson says. “But it didn’t matter because BANG, the Europeans arrive with their dirty diseases”: the final nail in the coffin, he said.



Well-known baths awash in hidden artifacts, rare finds

Excavations begin anew on first-century site

By Deepa Babington, Reuters


An area containing aqueducts is seen around an archaeology site at Villa delle Vignacce near Ciampino airport, south of Rome. Excavations at an ancient Roman villa and bath complex in the outskirts of Rome have unearthed a wealth of surprisingly well-preserved artefacts, including the marble head of a Greek god.


Excavations at an ancient Roman villa and bath complex in the outskirts of Rome have unearthed a wealth of surprisingly well-preserved artifacts, including the marble head of a Greek god, archeologists said on Wednesday.


The site of the Villa delle Vignacce, towards Ciampino airport south of Rome, was first explored by archeologists in 1780, who found statues that are now in the Vatican museum.


But excavations began in earnest only about two years ago, revealing a residence attached to an elaborate thermal bath complex dating to the first century A.D. complete with hot baths, large tubs and a communal latrine.


Since then, archeologists said they had also uncovered prized artifacts including fragments of columns, floor slabs and the head of a marble statue believed to represent either the Greek divinity of Zeus Serapide or Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing.


Another discovery of note included a coloured-glass mosaic of leaves and vegetation lining the inside of a vault.


"It's very unusual to find such well-preserved remains in Rome because most of the sites have usually been plundered already and the artifacts stolen," Dora Cirone, an archeologist on the dig, said at a news conference to announce the findings.


"Luckily, much of the remains here were found buried below floor level, and no one had laid their hands on it."


The site is also remarkable for the vast stretch of land it occupies and its consistent use over several centuries, said Darius Arya, an archeologist with the American Institute of Roman Culture, which is handling the excavations.


The complex appeared to have been used and modified from the second through the fifth centuries, and was just a short distance away from a Barbaric camp in the sixth century, though its links to the camp are unclear, he said.


"What we're getting here is a really complex structure," Arya said.


The complex initially belonged to Quintus Servilius Pudens, a wealthy friend of Emperor Hadrian, who probably held private parties in the baths for his friends, archeologists said.


© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service




Roman Temple may link Paganism and Christianity

Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 07:30


A LEADING archaeologist believes a missing link in history could be uncovered at an emerging Roman temple site in Southwell.


Bryn Walters, director and secretary of the Association for Roman Archeology, says a significant link between Paganism and Christianity could be uncovered at the former Minster School site.


Archeologists who unearthed a large wall dating back as far as 43AD suspect it may be part of a complex of religious buildings including a Roman pagan temple and bathing monument, known as a 'nymphaeum'.


The wall is made from large smooth-faced sandstone blocks typically used for lavish Roman buildings.


Mr Walters, an archeologist of more than 30 years, says it is rare for a such a significant find to be discovered close to a "major centre for Christianity" like Southwell Minster.


He is calling for archeologists to be given time and resources to conduct a thorough search of the area to yield artifacts which may prove a link between the two religions.


Mr Walters said: "Southwell is something special. What we have got here is the transition between Paganism and Christianity.


"It is the continuation of religious practice on that site.


"Southwell has developed into a very major centre for Christianity.


"There are Roman buildings very close by. Now this possible pagan temple has turned up.


"Southwell could prove to be important for research into the development and transition of religion from the Roman through to modern times.


"We need to extract the maximum amount of information from the area before it's lost forever."


The discovery is only the second Roman pagan temple to be found in Notts after a previous discovery in 1963 near the new East Midlands Parkway Station.


The site in Southwell also contains what is believed to be a large villa and up to four graves.


Ursilla Spence, senior archaeological officer for Notts County Council, who is leading the excavation, fears the discovery may be too damaged to provide a conclusive link between Christianity and Paganism.


But she said the find is one of the most exciting in her 25-year career.


Ms Spence said: "We certainly have got something substantial that is completely out of character for the East Midlands and probably most of the UK.


"But what it is, we don't know. The archeology is so damaged.


"At the moment we have a number of stories but we are looking for the archeology that ties them all together.


"It is a bit like a jigsaw where you are missing pieces.


"I am not convinced that there is enough of it left because of the building developments that happened afterwards."





Detector found bronze hidden 3,000 years ago

Thursday, February 12, 2009, 09:28


PRECIOUS copper fragments stashed away by prehistoric Denbury residents more than 3,000 years ago have been unearthed.


Seven copper ingots smelted sometime between 1100BC and 800BC and thought to have been stashed away by blacksmiths for later repairs to tools and axes were discovered in fields ploughed by farmer Kiernan Wellwood.


Phil Higginson, 52, from Newton Abbot and fellow members of Torbay Metal Detecting Club Stuart Hunt, from Newton Abbot and David Martin, from Exeter, unearthed the prehistoric hoard in April.


Mr Higginson said: "I found a couple of pieces of copper first and one of the other chaps found a similar piece and someone else found another.


"We did not realise what it was at first, but when we all put our heads together we knew it was copper and probably buried when the pyramids were being built.


"It was amazing to think the last person to have touched it lived more than 3,000 years ago."


The finds were recorded with Devon's archaeological finds liaison officer Danielle Wootton and are now at the British Museum.


A treasure trove inquest was held on Tuesday to determine whether the find is valuable and if it can be kept by the finder or has to go to the museum.


The pieces are classed as treasure and Exeter Royal Albert Memorial Museum has expressed interest in acquiring the find.


The pieces have been analysed by British Museum experts who confirmed that they are late Bronze Age.


Ms Wootton told the inquest: "We do not know what they are exactly but we think that because the metal at the time was precious it was buried away from view to be used later for repairs to tools and axes.


"We have more and more finds like this in Devon and it could be it forms part of some kind of ritual.


"The more we learn about the Bronze Age the more we realise how civilised these people were."


A medieval silver dress hook was also discovered in a Kingsbridge field.


Ivybridge metal detector Barry Lang with a South Hams metal detecting club unearthed the early 16th century piece on land owned by farmer Paul Rogers, another treasure trove inquest heard.


The piece has been analysed by experts at British Museum.


Torbay and South Devon coroner Ian Arrow said both finds should be classed as treasure and should go to museums.


It is likely the dress hook will be acquired by Plymouth Museum and art gallery.



Lost and found: palace of Robert the Bruce

Paul Kelbie

The Observer, Sunday 22 February 2009


Historians and archaeologists claim to have found the remains of King Robert the Bruce's palace, lost for more than 700 years.


The discovery is being hailed as one of the most important in decades as it pinpoints the location of a monument many believe is as important to Scotland's history as Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.


Beneath the Pillanflatt in Renton, in a run-down area of West Dunbartonshire, historians claim to have found a number of artefacts and foundations matching descriptions in ancient documents about the location of the king's home.


Sections of masonry, plasterwork and mortar have been sent to the Scottish Lime Centre, where tests confirmed that the stone dates from the 14th century and is of a type used in the construction of a cathedral or chapel. "The 1362 charter states that Robert the Bruce resided between Kings Park of Cardross and the lands of Pillanflatt, bounding the lands of Dalquhurn," said historian Stuart Smith, who has studied the Bruce family for 35 years.


The foundations were uncovered when a building company began digging the field as part of preparations for the construction of 300 houses.


The buildings on the Pillanflatt, which means "pavilion of the great hero" and is said to stretch from Dalquhurn to Dalreoch, are believed to include the king's manor house, which had a 100ft grand hall, a queen's quarter and a chapel.


"We knew that Pillanflatt was where the king lived," said Duncan Thomson, chairman of the Strathleven Artizans, a group set up to promote the area's links with Robert the Bruce. "Before we found the foundations, we had to guess where the king's house was."


Robert the Bruce is known to have lived in Renton from 1326 until his death in 1329. His organs were buried in Levengrove Park in Dumbarton.


The group behind the discovery is now awaiting the result of tests to determine exact dates and details, so that they can petition Historic Scotland to designate the area as a site of special historic interest. Thomson said: "He was such an important figure that this site deserves to be recognised as a place of importance in the same way as Stirling Castle or the field of Bannockburn."



Archaeologists dig up rare medieval waterwheel

16 February 2009

By Mike Brooke


ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a rare medieval tidal mill on the River Thames.


The discovery was made at Limehouse Reach in East London, where a team has been excavating peat soil on the foreshore at Greenwich Wharf, opposite the area known as Millwall on the Isle of Dogs.


It is remarkably well preserved in riverside peat deposits, archaeological experts from the Museum of London revealed today.


They believe it is the foundations of London’s earliest-found medieval tide-powered mill.


The huge structure, measuring 30ft by 36ft at its base, would have had a wheel diameter of 16ft, an incredible size for a wooden structure of this type which represents an extraordinary example of medieval engineering, dated to the 12th century. Analysis of tree rings has dated the trees used for its construction to 1194.


Tidal Mills worked by drawing in water from the river as the tide rose and releasing it as it fell.


The mill at Limehouse Reach features a substantial fragment of intact waterwheel and an enormous trough to channel the water which was shaped out of a single oak beam. The medieval carpenters’ construction marks are still clearly visible.


It was discovered during archaeological investigations by the museum’s team working with contractors getting the land ready for a new residential development at Greenwich Wharf.


Four mills in Greenwich are mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086.


The remains of the structure have been dismantled, with each timber carefully recorded so it can be properly researched. Sections of the find which have been removed, including the trough and waterwheel, are now undergoing conservation treatment to preserve them from 21st century air pollution.



Pharaoh floats down the Thames

Tuesday, February 17 05:32 pm

Press Assoc.


An unusual royal procession has sailed serenely down the Thames as river traffic made way for a 16ft Egyptian Pharaoh made entirely of Lego. Skip related content


Weighing one tonne and comprising more than 200,000 building blocks, the enormous statue - one of the largest Lego models yet built - will be part of a new £3 million attraction at the Legoland theme park in Windsor, Berkshire.


The Pharaoh followed in the footsteps of Anubis, the Egyptian God of the Dead, who floated down the River Thames in 2007 to mark the opening of the Tutenkhamun exhibition in London.


It was the end of a long voyage for the model, which has travelled 1,395 miles by truck and boat from the Czech Republic to the theme park's Kingdom of the Pharaohs exhibition, which opens on March 21.


The statue, which took a team of four modellers five months to build, was launched from King George V Dock in East Ham and will arrive at its destination on Wednesday.


Legoland's chief model maker, Guy Bagley, said: "We can't wait to get our Pharaoh into the theme park. Without this final piece, we can't quite get the land finished and the park open in time."